EL PASO, Texas – A cooperative effort between authorities in the United States and Mexico has resulted in the successful prosecution of a key figure in a human smuggling operation.
Border Patrol El Paso Sector’s Foreign Operations Brach and bi-national partners from the Mexican Attorney General Attaché’s Office (PGR) in El Paso announce the successful submission and conviction of a case for alien smuggling under the Operation Against Smugglers Initiative on Safety and Security (OASISS). The Government of Mexico (GoM), particularly the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (PGR), is a critical partner in the OASISS Program, which is aimed at increasing border security, safety and reducing deaths on the southwest border, while targeting alien smugglers and human traffickers operating in the immediate border region.
On April 12, Border Patrol Agents in Lordsburg, New Mexico arrested 38-year-old Mexican national Santos Villalva Celedonio. Along with Villava Celedonio, were 17 other individuals who made an illegal entry into the United States. Members of the group were interviewed and identified Villalva Celedonio as the guide who led them through the treacherous terrain in the Lordsburg area. Routine records checks revealed that Villava Celedonio also had an extensive immigration history. These facts were presented for prosecution of alien smuggling in the United States, but unfortunately the case did not proceed. The efforts to bring this individual to justice did not stop there as the arresting agents then contacted Border Patrol’s Foreign Operations Branch and informed them of the case.
The FOB’s close working relationship with the Mexican Attorney General Attaché’s Office in El Paso led to the critical partnership to seek prosecution of the Mexican national in his home country. The PGR in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua was contacted and were provided with the facts obtained from the interviews of the other members in the group. The information indicated that arrangements had been made with Villalva Celedonio in Mexico by those individuals that were to be smuggled illegally into the United States. The determination to bring a would-be criminal to justice paid off as the PGR presented the evidence to a Mexican court in the State of Chihuahua, and the presiding judge issued an arrest warrant for Villalva Celedonio.
On June 7, Villava Celedonio was released from custody on an immigration violation and was repatriated to Mexico to the custody of the PGR and the Instituto Nacional de Migracion.
On Dec. 27, Villalva Celedonio was sentenced to five years and four months by a Federal Court in the state of Chihuahua.
This case is touted as the first of its kind in the El Paso/Chihuahua area under Mexico’s new judicial Penal System and will be used as a model depicting the success the U.S. Border Patrol has in working with the Mexican Consulate in El Paso, and Mexican law enforcement authorities in combating human smuggling. This bi-national collaboration brings to light the efforts that both countries are making in order to secure our nation’s borders. It also demonstrates a united front in battling the transnational criminal organizations that operate on both sides of the U.S./Mexico Border.